Reacting to criticism of some expensive government conferences that has resulted in limited participation at this year’s Association of the United State Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition, the Army two top leaders on Monday, October 22, strongly supported the value of this gathering.
In his keynote address to the opening session, Army Secretary John McHugh said the AUSA conference “provides a critical forum to exchange ideas, to discuss the critical issues facing the nation... to learn from each other.”
Although the “Army footprint is much smaller than usual,” McHugh said, “I firmly believe the impact will as great as ever.”
“I want to make it clear how much I value these forums” for our soldiers, families and other, the secretary said. He noted the Army has found ways to allow more soldiers to monitor the meeting through other means, including “teleconferencing, if there is such a word.”
In a later joint session with reporters, Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, opened his remarks by stating “how important this forum is, especially now as we look to the future and transition.”
The general said the three-day conference provides “the opportunity to bring the Army together with many of our Defense Department colleagues,” and member of allied nations, that “allows us to have a discussion about what’s important.”
“To me, this is an incredibly important event for the Army,” Odierno said, which was why they worked hard to set up panel discussions specifically looking to the future of the Army.
The two leaders were referring to stories highlighting very expensive conferences and outings held in recent years by the General Services Administration and the Veterans Administration to award workers and officials. Those have led to congressional pressure to restrict such gatherings.
McHugh said it was “understandable” that taxpayer-funded conferences have been “under a lot of scrutiny” in Washington, “but sometimes the good gets caught up with bad.”
And he suggested that if other organizations would follow AUSA’s example and open their sessions to the news media, members of Congress and their staff and the public, “we all would be better off.”